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18 Jul 2005 : Column WA181

Written Answers

Monday, 18 July 2005.

Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): The rules of the Armed Forces compensation scheme do not prevent an individual placing an award in a personal injury trust. It is for the individual in receipt of an award to decide how he or she wishes to use it. Such an award, whether or not it is placed in a trust fund, does not affect entitlement to either the care component or the mobility component of disability living allowance. In addition, capital in trust funds that derives from payment in compensation for personal injury may be disregarded for the purposes of assessing entitlement to income-related benefits. However, the detailed application of the relevant rules is a matter on which the individual should seek advice from the Department for Work and Pensions or from one of the ex-service organisations which can assist on such matters.

Army: Infantry Manning Levels

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Drayson: The current trained regular strength of the infantry is 25,030, against a requirement of 24,420, a current surplus of 610 personnel. This surplus will reduce as the future Army structure (FAS) is implemented.

To maintain current manning levels at the required establishment the Army has a training output target to the infantry of 2,835 personnel for the financial year 2005–06. Research has shown that high employment, attractive alternatives in further education and negative portrayal of the Army in the media will mean that achieving this target will prove challenging. Although an increase in marketing effort has produced a high level of interest, the impact on recruiting has yet to show.
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Avian Flu

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): United Kingdom planning for an influenza pandemic, including the development of vaccine strategies, is ongoing work and will continue to progress. There are some technical limitations in reducing vaccine production times, and it is likely to take at least four to six months until vaccine starts to become available. We are continuing to work closely with manufacturers, the World Health Organisation, the European Commission and other countries to ensure that a vaccine can be developed as quickly as possible once a pandemic flu strain emerges and to put arrangements in place to ensure production of vaccine for the UK population.

Any changes to current policy arising from the development of the vaccine strategy will be announced in due course.

Biometric Readers

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Biometric passports—that is, passports which incorporate a digital facial image or fingerprints, or both—are being planned by many countries. The EU, for example, has agreed a regulation on the incorporation of both facial image and fingerprints into the EU common format passport. Passports and identity cards fulfil different functions, although identity cards are in some cases accepted as travel documents, as in the case with EU nationals travelling on identity cards issued by their respective member states which are accepted for travel within the EU. (The plans to introduce identity cards in the United Kingdom are not dependent on the development of new technology for passports.) However, because we intend to link the issue of identity cards to the issue of passports, we have given the indicative cost of the two documents together in the regulatory impact assessment for the Identity Cards Bill. Most of the cost will be due to the increased cost of enhanced security features in passports. The regulatory impact assessment explains the relationship between the costs of biometric passports and the costs of identity cards.
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The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Card readers will vary in specification and capability dependent on the requirements of user organisations. The range of costs published in the Identity Cards Bill regulatory impact assessment takes account of the variety of readers and usage scenarios.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The current UK passports are machine readable travel documents (MRTDs) and include biometric identifiers that comply with the standards for such documents set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The UK Passport Service intends to introduce passports (ePassports) that include a contactless chip that is to contain the same biometric identifiers in a format laid down and agreed by ICAO's New Technology Working Group (NTWG). There is a clear determination for countries to apply the ICAO standards consistently and we are actively participating in activities to ensure this is the case. The interoperability of ePassports has been strongly considered and a number of trials have been held with a further trial expected later this year.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The current cost quoted in the Identity Cards Bill Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) for identification card readers (which is estimated to fall between £250–£750 depending upon required performance and sophistication) does not include an estimate for local infrastructure costs as in many cases the readers will be able to make use of existing local infrastructure. The costs of the central infrastructure related to the verification network have been accounted
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for elsewhere within the scheme cost estimates and the £584 million average annual running cost estimate published in the RIA makes an allowance for this.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: United Kingdom Government officials have attended a number of international conferences and trials of biometric-enabled electronic chips in passports in the past two years. These have included trials held in Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States of America. Such fora are intended to give those countries planning to issue biometric passports the opportunity to test the passports they have developed and for manufacturers to test their technology. This approach has encouraged manufacturers to develop technology designed to offer both future-proofing to support prospective developments in this field and interoperability between systems. EU member states participating in the biometric visa regulation are awaiting the results of a project run by the French and Belgians. The results of this will inform further developments of biometrics in this area.

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